Hebron, South Hebron Hills, Mon 24.10.11, Morning

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Hagit B., Michal T., (Reporting)

Translator:  Charles K.

Because of what’s going on in Hebron we decided to devote most of the time to the Cordova school overlooking Beit Hadassah, that “pays the price” as a result.

On our way, “all we saw” were a police helicopter opposite the police station near the Shoket junction delivering a civilian into custody, and soldiers who came down from the pillbox at the Dura-Al Fawwar junction stopping cars and people for inspections that appear more rigorous than usual.  The soldiers at Tel Rumeida and near the Cave of the Patriarchs are also stopping people and cars and diligently searching them and their belongings.  The security forces seem to be behaving more strictly today.  We wondered whether they think it necessary to “remind” people who’s in charge here, in the wake of the Shalit deal, viewed by those opposed to it as evidence of systemic weakness.

The Cordova school

When we arrived at the Tarpa”t checkpoint we were informed by the peace organizations that classes had resumed.  We decided to visit and hear from the principal and teachers what they’d gone through.

When we reached the stairs leading up to the school, Noam Arnon shows up, and when he sees Angelika photographing the area of Beit Hadassah, says: “Go ahead, take pictures of the monsters.”  Hagit reminds him that we don’t consider them “monsters;” “Even though you behave unjustly, you’re still human beings.”  That “took the wind out of his sails.”  He mutters something and drives on without “attacking” us.

(Apparently we’re the ones they consider monsters)

Graffiti on the school’s walls; it’s been there since August:  “Hebron is ours, now and forever,” etc.

We ask how the strike ended. The principal says they opened the school again because on Thursday, 20.10.11, the settlers, led by Anat Cohen, threatened to “take it over.” “If the buildings are empty, we’ll take them,” she said. The school staff shows us the photos they took, the violence, curses and obscenities of that woman. Police and soldiers were present at the incident. None of them intervened, to stop the settlers’ violent behavior. On the other hand, they did detain the janitor for interrogation. [What bothers our forces is that their behavior is observed, not that they’re able to carry it out.] After this incident the teachers decided to open the school; only those who live nearby (so they don’t have to go through the checkpoint) teach all the class, assisted by volunteers. The other 19 teachers living in area H1 still don’t coming. We decide to call Colonel Guy Hazut, the commander of the Yehuda region brigade. (As far as we’re concerned, we have to support the Palestinians in their attempts to live as “normal” lives as possible and protect them against the settlers’ aggression, until the Occupation ends – ha ha ha ha). I add that in parentheses in response to accusations by those opposed to talking to the military authorities.

We are seeking a way to end the conflict and reinstate the previous arrangement, under which the teachers could enter through the regular gate without going though the scanner twice a day. There had never been any security problems with the teachers, and the school must begin operating normally again. To our surprise, Guy Hazut says he’s willing to cooperate with our “mediation.”  Apparently no one wants “to take the risk of igniting the barrel of gunpowder that is Hebron.”  Guy suggests they go back to work, and if for a week they go through without any problems, in accordance with the new arrangements, he’ll agree to let the teachers on the list pass through the gate that doesn’t have the scanner. We give the phone to the principal who speaks to Guy directly and finalizes the matter with him – something that, had we not been here, she would not have dared or been able to do. The representatives of the Hebron Department of Education who have been accompanying the principal since the crisis erupted are suspicious of the proposal; they don’t believe it. We ask the police and DCO staff to come to the school (because the teachers are afraid to go to the police, and no one answers their phone calls), speak to the teachers, hear and see at first hand what they went through. They agree to our request, and the principal asks us to stay on. Within half an hour police and a DCO major arrive. At first they focus on the graffiti and when it was written, but after a while they manage to talk about what’s important. The Palestinians again describe the anomalous situation of the pupils on their way to and from school, and the one-sided manner in which the police deal with their confrontations with the settlers. It’s not an easy conversation, but we’re pleased that in conclusion they provide a phone number to call and, most important, both sides agree that after the teachers go through the scanner for a week without objections the previous arrangement will be reinstated, which was so important because it gave those people, living under the constant threat of violence from Hebron settlers, a minimal sense of dignity and independence. We request the teachers to trust and give the authorities a chance to keep their promise. They understand, and agree.

Let’s hope this struggle ends and the school goes back to “normal”, despite Anat Cohen and her ilk… We, of course, will continue to be in touch with them.

We left exhausted.

Then we drove to Susia, because we’d read on Facebook that its school had been damaged.  We were pleased to discover this wasn’t true. 

Although people from the Civil Administration had come to demolish it, when they measured they found that the school was in Area B, so they turned around and left.  What “luck.”

Our shift was very “educational.”